My Review of "On the Verge"

Dave Ferguson and Alan Hirsch are mad missional scientists.

I’ve never seen either of them wear a lab coat or cackle an evil laugh but nonetheless they are mad missional scientists.

It doesn’t take long in reading On the Verge to realize what is happening: it is the convergence of cultural, intellectual, and practical movement from paradigm to paradigm as it pertains to the Kingdom of God in the present-day world.

The benefit of reading this book is the high level of understanding that both Ferguson and Hirsch have not only for the state of the church as it is but also the state of the church as it could and should be. Both authors lend their credible, experienced voices to helping the reader understand that the church is facing a crisis of identity and purpose that is both disarming its inherently revolutionary power and leading people to define Christianity as a social or civic activity rather than a way of life that permeates home, office, and sanctuary all at the same time.

The point of On the Verge is that with key movements in theology, values, and practice the church can embody the fully incarnational purpose of transforming individuals, families, communities and cultures through self-sustaining dependence on the Holy Spirit rather than the complete control of institutional religious structures. The authors present not only a plan for the theoretical movements necessary for the church, but also give concrete examples of the ways that the missional movement is being fleshed out in various communities and context throughout the world.

I appreciated greatly the nod to an “And” thinking within existing churches, as opposed to an “either/or” mentality – namely the one that says either you’re “missional” or you’re “the devil.” Okay, that was an over-generalization but there are conversations regarding church culture and ethos in the contemporary world that would veer very close to these points.

The challenge of a book like this is the amazing breadth of information that’s being presented. It’s a great read for individuals who want to gain a better understanding of what this “missional” thing is all about, but the greatest value is really for teams and individual leaders who are crafting church culture and ethos on a regular basis. While my struggle with the missional movement literature in the past has been that it has favored mainly church planters over those of us who are engaged in existing churches, this book again makes a point to move away from the “either/or” mentality and engages all church structures, sizes, and contexts with the challenge of living incarnationally where they are and building systems and practices that “yoke” people together with Jesus and send them out with the commission to be Jesus in the world.

One of the inherent challenges in reading this book is one that at it’s core is healthy and helpful, and that is the theological work it takes to understand what the church, missional movement, or ecclesia needs to look like in light of the life and teachings of Jesus and the movement of His disciples throughout the New Testament and how those principles and ideas translate into the 21st century. Hirsch and Ferguson offer several paradigms from existing church profiles to help give flesh and blood to the ideas, and hopefully the reader’s imagination and dialogue with the church profiles will provide a staging ground from which to launch an apostolic movement that matches their cultural context.

If I can offer any critique of this book it would be that while the inclusion of ideas and structures from other books such as The Shaping of Things to Come and The Forgotten Ways is one of the key benefits to the book, anyone coming to this book without having read the others may find themselves struggling to make sense of some of the ideas. There is no real solution to this, and the benefit of a reader moving from On the Verge to the other books mentioned here is obviously high, it may simply need to be addressed in the next edition.

To close, the quote that should drive you to reading this book, from the mad scientists themselves in describing the ideas they present in the book. “ Likewise, in every spark there is the full potential of the flame, and in every flame the potential of a massive inferno. But it’s all there, in potential at least, in the tiny spark.”

Grab this book. Ignite a spark. The movement of God is calling and the mad scientists are paving the way.